By: Roger Taylor
With the success
of Tony Hawkís Pro Skater and its sequels has come a
barrage of games in the "extreme sports" genre. Most
follow the same formula of "link tricks together to get big
scores." When the Tony Hawk games used this method, it was
fairly fresh. Most of us hadnít played games to get high scores
since the days Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. Now,
after dozens of copycat games, the formula already seems old and
tired again. Enter Dark Summit, the first adventure-extreme
takes place on the ski slopes of Mt. Garrick, where snowboarding has
been banned. You take the role of a female snowboarder named Naya,
an outlaw of the slopes who is trying desperately to unveil the
mysteries of the mountain. Your rivals are Chief OíLeary, the man
in charge of Mt. Garrick, and his henchman. The game designers seem
to be shooting for the kind of subversive "screw the
establishment" mood that Jet Grind Radio evokes.
However, the attempts seem forced and ultimately fail because of it.
But thank you, Radical Entertainment, for including such risquť
words as "crap," just in case we forget that the game is
"extreme". Itís also hard to take the mood seriously,
when they developers donít take their own story seriously. The
convoluted, incomplete storyline also contains allusions to illegal
toxic waste dumping, Nazi-like rhetoric spouted from loudspeakers
and something to do with cows that Iím not going to reveal. Sounds
pretty stupid right? It is. For whatever reason, Radical
Entertainment decided a ridiculous, mildly humorous storyline would
be more appropriate than a more realistic one. If you enjoy
over-the-top farces, you should get into the story that drives Dark
gameplay of Dark Summit revolves around completing various
challenges. The challenges range from outrunning skiers, to grinding
5 rails in a certain amount of time (like a training mode), to
collecting bombs. Yes, I said bombs. What better way to stick it to
the man than by blowing the crap out of a mountain? Anyway, the
challenges are fairly fun, and the developers seem to understand,
for the most part, that having to try a mission a few times over
makes it challengingÖwhile failing a few dozen times before
getting it right is just frustrating. The difficulty level of the
game is fairly solid.
the original approach to the genre is the only thing that Dark
Summit has going for it. It isnít as realistic of a simulation
of snowboarding as 1080 on the N64; it doesnít have the
speed of SSX Tricky; and it doesnít even come close to the Tony
Hawk series in terms of rock-solid trick-based gameplay.
developers Radical Entertainment tried hard to give gamers all the
moves they could handle. The X-button handles all grabs, with each
different direction and X giving you a different grab. Holding a
direction with a grab will result in either a rotation or a flip.
Pressing and holding the Y-button on an object will result in a
grind, also known as a jib. Holding forward or back while grinding
will result in a manual grindÖitís never adequately explained
what this is. Holding the B-button at the top of a half-pipe will
make your character do a lip move, but this youíll never use this
trick after the first time. There are also special tricks, a nice
addition, which take a button combination to complete. Most of the
tricks move clumsily, without polish. This is particularly true of
grinding, which ends of animating nothing like what its real-life
counterpart looks like.
The graphics in Dark
Summit are - in direct contrast to itís name - bright and
colorful. They get the job done, but certainly arenít going to wow
you. The GameCube can do much better than this. Cut scenes are done
using the in-game graphics instead of FMV, which is acceptable since
the cut-scenes are short and unmemorable anyway.
Dark Summit is
a bit better in the sound department. The throbbing techno music
generally fits the snowboarding atmosphere, and isnít at all
intrusive or irritating. The sound effects fit nicely with the
gameplay, and are varied enough not to seem repetitive. Sound clips
of skiers and slope officials yelling at your character play during
the game, as do the inexplicable German-accented mission statements
over loudspeakers throughout the courses. All of the clips echo
somewhat, which is a nice touch. The skiers complaining that you are
boarding too fast, even as they pass you, can get irritating though.
single-player game is good for about 10 hours of gameplay; not a
long amount, but certainly not the worst of all the cheap-thrill
games available these days. Three multiplayer modes are included: a
standard race, a trick competition, and a unique Ė if ill-advised
Ė mode in which the goal is to knock down as many obstacles as
possible in a set time limit. All three modes are good for a few
plays, but no more than that.
refreshing to see developers trying new things in a time when
sequels and clone games are so prevalent. Dark Summit is a
nice change from the standard extreme sports game, but it canít
cover up the fact that the genre has pretty much run its course. For
that reason, Dark Summit was doomed from the start, but give
THQ and Radical Entertainment a hand for trying.
- Good sound
effects and music.
- Extreme sports games
aren't fun anymore.
- No replay value.
- Lack of polish.
If you arenít
tired out on extreme sports games yet, give Dark Summit a
rental. Itís a solidly made game, but can be fully experienced in
a few nights. Otherwise, stay far away.